One of the obvious benefits of a digital world is instant access to news and current events.  We are all set adrift on this sea of information, which also serves as the backdrop for those who walk into every school classroom in the morning.

A recent article in the New York Times outlines how many teachers and their students are connecting current events with classroom lesson plans.  The Times asked both teachers and students how they connect what’s happening outside of class with lesson plans.  We think you’ll find their responses inspirational and insightful.

We are left with a few observations that led to these successful efforts, including:

  1. Let the students carry the conversations.  Successful teachers are merely moderators in facilitating an honest and fair discussion.
  2. Just about any current event is fair game as long as the process engages students in open dialogue and debate.  The goal is not to solve the problem but to support engagement and exploration that can lead to consensus.
  3. There is no age limit to participation.  In the Times piece, teachers shared stories from elementary, middle and high schools.
  4. Everything from novels to poetry to interesting social movements has been used to motivate connections.
  5. Give students a stage.  Many of these efforts involved allowing students to give their own “Ted Talk” or use other means to share their thoughts.

We believe Elizabeth Misiewicz, Ridgefield, Conn., Middle School, summed up her connection efforts best when she said:

“As middle schoolers, my students are growing into their identities and trying to find their places in the world. This project essentially said to them, “Your opinions are important, and you deserve to be heard.”

In Making Connections: 50 Teenagers Suggest Creative Ways to Link Classic Texts to the World Today, The Times reported on various student ideas for relating current events covered in the Times opinion pages with texts they have read or are currently reading. Some of the titles suggest deep thinking on the matter, including:

Active minds will always surprise and inspire us.  Here’s to our teaching professionals, who are hard at work building these active minds every day.  Have a great school year!